How many times did it happen that you were doing something very serious on the internet and suddenly a window popped up with some images asking you to verify you’re not a robot? This is a very common phenomenon, almost a part of our daily internet life. This technology of differentiating humans from robots is called ‘Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart’ or simply CAPTCHA. As more people are being connected to the Internet, online scamming is getting more prevalent and so is the need of security. Scammers generally use robots or computer programs for scamming attacks. The use of CAPTCHA can reduce such attacks to a great extent.
CAPTCHA is not a new technology. The first use of CAPTCHA dates back to the early 2000s. Then users were verified with texts and numbers which were legible to humans but unfathomable to computers. It has developed a lot since then. Today, we hardly face any CAPTCHA that require us to rewrite the text or numbers in a box. Rather we face verification methods that ask us to select some images of a certain object or sometimes just to tick a box saying ‘I am not a robot’. You might be wondering – how would they know I am not a robot if I have to just tick a box, a robot can do that as well. The verification technology behind just ticking a box is quite interesting. It doesn’t focus on the outcome but rather on the process. It tracks the movement of the pointer while the user tries to tick the box. At least in the microscopic level there is always some discrepancies between the movement of a human hand and a robot. The technology also considers browser cookies and other relevant information to ensure the user is indeed a human.
Scamming on the Internet is a real thing and at times can lead to very dangerous consequences. From spreading malware and viruses to hacking information, scammers are always searching for opportunities. With the advancement of security technology, spamming technology also advances. CAPTCHA is not going to ensure absolute security, in fact, no technology does, but it helps to reduce spamming. It is used for maintaining poll accuracy, limiting registration for services, preventing ticket inflation, preventing false comments, limiting junk emails and so on.
Nothing comes without any drawbacks. CAPTCHA can be sometimes very disruptive and very frustrating for the users. No one likes to be interrupted by a seemingly useless thing when doing a very important task. Some users may find traditional CAPTCHA difficult to understand. Some CAPTCHA types do not support all browsers which can be disturbing. Some scammers hire people at a very low cost to solve CAPTCHA which opens the door to scamming and questions the whole purpose of such security measures. While it’s true, most computers can’t decode CAPTCHA, there are some AI programs that have shown significant progress in solving complex CAPTCHA on their own. Every time we solve a CAPTCHA, companies like Google extract the data and use it for improving their machine learning and artificial intelligence technology. It’s not a bad thing but something most of us are not aware of.
No matter how silly and disturbing CAPTCHA may seem, it is essential for our own security. It’s quite amazing how just checking an ‘I am not a robot’ dialogue shields us from spammers!